Prominent Women Want Concrete Action to Stop Online Abuse

Commitments by Major Social Media Platforms Are A Part of Announcement Series Made During the UN’s Generation Equality Forum

More than 200 high-profile women have recently agreed to sign a petition to take required actions to tackle down online abuse, which is currently on immoderation on all major social media platforms. The open letter, which has been signed by all women, including Emma Watson, Thandiwae Newton, ex-US tennis player Billie Jean King and the former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard, has been published at the United Nations Generation Equality Forum.

Harassment and abuse at women

Julia Gillard said that being an Australian Prime Minister, similar to other women working in public domains, she regularly was targeted as online abuse with highly gendered and unpleasant social media, also including the public circulation of her pornographic caricatures.

She later added that all the online abuse made her very frustrated and angry that women around the world still had to face such kind of cruel mistreatment, all due to her gender.

The open letter was addressed to the chief executive officers of large social media networking sites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, and has urged them to urgently give priority to the safety of women working on their platforms from any and all online abuse they might be experiencing.

In response to the letter, the CEOs of the social media platforms have stated that they will be committing to improving their systems on the reporting of online abuse, along with filtering out the content their users are watching and the individuals that can be in interaction with them.

However, some of the campaigners have expressed their concerns that these commitments for tackling online abuse might not stay for long enough time.

Lucina Di Meco, the co-founder of the #ShePersisted Global, which was developed to help to tackle online abuses occurring against women, has said that these abstract statements only offer a nice opportunity for PR to the tech firms but no real commitment has ever been made. These firms are not specifically offering to thoroughly observe the moderation of content or changes of preferences in the algorithm that will reward the bad behavior. Up till now, we are all still burdening women.

The letter also reads that the internet is similar to that of a town square in the current century. It is the place where debates happen, communities are built, products are being sold, and reputations are made.

But due to the increasing scale of online abuse means that most women are feeling unsafe in these digital town squares. This provides a threat to the progression of gender equality.

Actions taken by social media platforms

The open letter to the United Nations has also highlighted a research study conducted in the year 2020, in which it has been reported that more than 4,000 adult women took part in the research, and out of which 38% located in 51 different countries have directly experienced online abuse.

It has also emphasized the point that online abuse is much worse for a marginalized group of women and mixed-race, Latin American, Asian, and women of color.

The senior policy manager working at the World Wide Web Foundation, Azmina Dhrodia, said that it has become really important to recognize the online abuse and harassment that is going on against the women of the world on all major social media sites as it has become widespread and is gradually become one of the biggest barriers towards gender equality.

The journalist from Azerbaijan, Arzu Geybulla, who also participated in the consultations, said that the constant amount of online abuse and harassment suffered by her made her want to leave her entire career. She also added that she wondered if the tech social media platforms would ever take serious required actions against harassment and trolling.

A small initiative has been taken by TikTok against general online abuse, in which they have a prompt that asks the user to reconsider the impact of their comment before posting it, which may contain any possible inappropriate work along with some other keywords. Meanwhile, Twitter has a feature that limits the number of posts individuals are able to see.

The head of the legal, trust and safety, and public police department at Twitter, Vijaya Gadde, said that while the firm had made some changes recently to provide greater control over the management of their safety, but there is still a lot of work left to be done.

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